Penn State will host its annual spring scrimmage on Saturday, even if established stars like running back Saquon Barkley, tight end Mike Gesicki and linebacker Jason Cabinda are likely to be watching from the sidelines. However, that doesn’t mean there will be less for fans to see. A slew of players likely to be competing for and ultimately assuming important roles on the team this fall will see significant action, and this week on the Penn State Blog, we’ll be looking at the Top 5.
Today, we scout Kyle Vasey, the walk-on long-snapper.
Position: Long snapper
What he did in 2016: Didn’t see any game action. Essentially, served as the third-string long snapper behind starters Tyler Yazujian and top backup Zach Ladonis.
What he could do in 2017: Vasey very well could be the starting long snapper on field goals and punts.
What can he show on Saturday: Well, that’s the big question with a guy like Vasey, because while he is entering his third year in the program, he hasn’t played in a game, and he’s not at a position that typically draws a lot of media attention. So, it’s not as if he’s going to blow reporters away with his snapping. Who’s to say, after all, what a good long-snapper is? If they consistently execute the snaps, that’s their job, right?
Why is he important for 2017: Bottom line is, Vasey is important to Penn State because he’s ultra important to guys like Tyler Davis and Blake Gillikin.
Last season, Penn State went from one of the worst kicking games in the Big Ten to one of the best. Davis was a revelation, making 22 of his 24 field goals and all 62 of his extra point attempts. Gillikin averaged 42.8 yards per punt and landed opposing teams inside their own 20 on 22 of his 61 punts. They even found a valuable role for the strong-legged but inconsistent Joey Julius, who shined on kickoffs.
But at least for Davis and Gillikin, a tip of the cap has to go to Yazujian, who was a consistent presence at long snapper for two straight seasons, one good enough at his job to have earned both a scholarship last season and maybe even some NFL looks once the NFL Draft ends.
The long snapper is integral on the punt and field goal units. If he makes the holder work to put the snap down, that throws off the field goal kicker’s timing and ultimately will result in more misses. If his snaps drift a little right or left, or waver too far up and down on the punter too often, that disrupts not just the punter’s timing, but the coverage unit’s as well and will ultimately result in longer returns.
In other words, Davis and Gillikin were better, but they didn’t perform in a vacuum. They’ll have to prove their success again without Yazujian, and the easiest way for them to do that will be for a guy like Vasey to snap with Yazujian-like consistency.
Can he do that? We don’t know. He only starts to get his feet wet in game action on Saturday.
How you’ll know he did his job: There’s no glamour in being the long snapper, for sure. When the kick is made, the kicker gets the most credit, then the holder gets the rest, if he’s lucky enough to get any at all. Yazujian thrived on that anonymity, understanding it was a sign of doing the job well.
If you leave Beaver Stadium on Saturday without complaining about the long snapper, you’ll know Kyle Vasey walked away happy.
If he doesn’t, Penn State’s going to have an important competition worth watching come August — even if it’s not one that will make a lot of national news.